Posts Tagged ‘Parent’

More Flash Fiction

July 7, 2012 3 comments

Flashy Fiction Prompt Photo

The Gleaning

Soon the pickers will come; their baskets covered and darkly empty. Who will survive this season’s harvest? How many can we get to safety in the caverns below? And how many will survive the terror of remaining below until the sky homes are again safe?

Our new leader perches, grasping his branch of authority so tightly his talons have sunken into the bark, almost heartwood deep. Families gather to hear his plans for leaving our sky homes for burrowed havens during this time of The Gleaning. Not even sky’s soft breath disturbs the silence holding our attention.

“This night will see us gone from these homes. Each parent pair holds responsibility for their young ones.”

Fledglings tuck up against parents’ sides, beneath sheltering wing power. Feet shuffle and scrape bark with restless talons. The scouts must have reported the pickers on their way to the forest.

Leader spreads wings to call order and flips them again to his back.

“Our fasting will begin at full dawn. The hardship of the season is upon us. Feed well before entering the burrows. It will be the last for a foot of moon rises.”

The sound of his last instruction faded. Leader departed to get his own charges on the ground and fed before dawn. Each small group moves forward to launch.

Fledglings balk, hesitating. They are shoved off for their first flight. For them the dark unknown rushes to meet them, not caring that this is new and frightening for these small feathered bodies. Moss hummocks and short leaf blades cushion their landings and bounces. One parent accompanies each new flyer and examines for injuries at the landing spot.

As soon as able-bodied fledglings are grounded, parents roam the sky homes looking for stragglers. Here and there weak calls come from homes, where those too weak or ill have been left behind. Their sacrifice will ensure that the fit will survive The Gleaning.

As the sun begins to streak the forest with its rays, the people begin to stuff last meals down their gullets. Many will be too weak and malnourished to hunt after The Gleaning. Designated caretakers go through the crowds before each burrow, marking the ones to watch for when the safety call comes from the watch patrol.

Thank the Great Winged One, the watch patrol will be gathering larger meals for that unearthing time. Calls from overhead alert those who need to hide. Young ones are pushed into burrow entrances, followed closely by adults. In moments only the patrol remains; covering entrances with harvested mosses to disguise the havens from the pickers.

Task complete, they leap into the air, flapping for altitude into the high reaches, where pickers never climb. The wait begins; the wait for sky’s freedom for the people. With full light, the pickers arrive, their baskets covered, darkly empty. Soon those sacrificed will have given their glorious feathers to occupy those baskets.

Grace and Generosity of Spirit—A Housewife’s Tale

February 21, 2012 5 comments

My father’s next youngest sister epitomizes the term “generosity of spirit.” As a young woman she could have modeled for any top agency in the world, with raven hair, laughing eyes, full mouth, and alabaster skin, all in a tall lithesome frame. She had all of this and more.

With marriage to a kind and playful man came responsibilities of farm, home, and family. Two daughters, each unique and talented, kept her busy and focused. Bickering inside the family was unheard of.

By the time the first grandchild came along, this dark beauty had become a matron, happy in her authentic plantation-style house and space enough for the girls to have enough land of their own to build homes next to the big house. Any threatening clouds to her life were as yet unnoticed. Her life was moving along very well to all appearances.

Months rolled by, minor medical issues came into the household for her, but for the first grandchild, the issues were serious and potentially deadly. She dealt with her fears and uncertainty as she dealt with life in general. She faced them, head-on, one step at a time, and helped wherever she could.

The grandson never grew out of his early medical distress. The situation grew more complicated and disconcerting as time wore on. Soon another child entered the picture, and he, too, suffered from the same disabilities.

Soon, the younger daughter had begun building her own family, living on the other side of Mom and Dad. The brood had expanded with another son-in-law and three more grandkids. Over the years serious medical concerns stalked the branches of that family tree, bringing with them sorrows, fortitude, and making do for the family’s members.

My aunt moved ahead through it all, through her own medical troubles, with frequent hospitalizations, treatments, etc. She did what she’d always done. She took care of her family; cooking, cleaning, soothing feverish children, smiling, praying, and loving.

She did all of this, and if she ever complained about her lot in life, I figure only God witnessed it. She has faced her days with gentle resolve to do the best she can, able to laugh at the foolishness and play of both human and animal, and using her indoor voice most of the time. Getting flustered never gets a task done, so she never bothered to use it.

I remember this lady from the time I was five or six years old. I’ve never known her to exhibit rage, prejudice, or ill-will. I’ve seen her cry, rock a sick child for hours in the middle of the night, and work until her fingers bent with arthritis. I know why her family is the way it is.

Those in her immediate family follow hers and my uncle’s example in their generosity and grace. There are no personal complaints about how life isn’t fair. They recognize that truth and work hard with what they have to make their situation—whatever that might be–the best it can be at that moment. They accept their roles in life, without blaming anyone for them.

Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? Always happiness and light, never raw emotion hanging on the clothesline for all to see, no enemies or troubles coming from the outside.

Like most things in this world, happiness is a relative emotion. These lucky people love and respect each other. They work as a team to make it in the world and to move forward as quickly as they can. Their happiness comes from trusting God and knowing that they are safe in the hands of one another. They support one another in all ways.

She and my uncle act as a lode stone for their family. They create the core from which other members gather strength and direction. That doesn’t diminish the innate strength of my cousins, their husbands, and their children. Indeed, each of the younger generation has manifested that same sense of strength, resolve, and grace.

I’ve watched and admired this branch of my family for most of my life, as I’ve admired all of my family members for individual reasons. I’m blessed to be shown a living example of grace and generosity each time I envision my aunt working in her kitchen, hearing her laugh about some small clumsiness she experienced that day. I know that I’ve been shown one the self-actualized people in the world and thank God for it.

There is no such thing as perfection on this earth, but until the real thing comes along, I’ll keep using this family as my lode stone for living a good life.

Tantrums and Grandparent Woes

February 14, 2012 6 comments


Do you remember throwing a temper tantrum as a child? If so, where were you and who calmed you down? Do you remember the reason for the tantrum?

I have one memory of such an event and there’s very little to it. I was at my father’s parents’ house. I stood facing my grandpa, who was trying in vain to placate me. My young five/six year old self was having nothing to do with placation.

My parents had promised to be home soon and they hadn’t come yet. Were they dead and no one had told me? Where were they and why weren’t they here?

Neither Grandpa nor Granny could calm me down. I was furious, terrified that I’d never see my parents again, and I was headed for a complete meltdown. The end of my memory was where I kicked Grandpa in the shin as hard as I could and demanded he produce my parents “right now!”

My mother, many years later, told me that she and Dad had remained in town to visit other relatives while my little brother and I went back to my grandparents’ home. She said that they’d been delayed for a couple of hours because of friends and other relatives taking up their time.

It seems like a simple enough explanation, and one that probably would have worked on an older child who wasn’t terrified that her parents were lying dead somewhere along the road. I never bought it, she said. Their excuse was never accepted by me. I believed, though I didn’t want to, that they’d lied to me when they said they’d be home shortly.

Looking back on it now, from so many years into my own future, I can understand my fears and accusations. I quail to think of my striking out at that most gentle of men, my grandpa, even as I can fathom the depth of my feelings. I can’t remember if I ever apologized for my actions that evening.

There are some fears that take precedence over logic. Fear of abandonment is a child’s worst nightmare. Does a child ever outgrow that tendency to hang on so that the caregiver can’t disappear? Does that fear develop from a toddler’s misperception that a person/thing disappears when no longer in view?

I’m sure I don’t know the answer to that question. I doubt the experts do either. I do know that when I invest my trust and love in a person, I expect them to honor it and not throw me curve balls. I’ve always had that response in relationships, whether within the family or those outside of it.

Perhaps Grandpa’s mistake in dealing with me and my fears was actually two-fold. He tried to speak to me in a reasonable tone and manner, and he didn’t know where my parents were and admitted it to me. Grandpa’s are, after all, supposed to be all-knowing, all seeing, and above all else, always right!

If I ever threw another tantrum, I don’t recall it. Thank God! The recollection of this one has haunted me for enough years already.

A Few of Grandma’s Mysteries

February 7, 2012 2 comments

My maternal grandmother always seemed old to me. I have no memories of how she looked before I was old enough to go to school, and she died when I was twelve.

I do remember a few things; conversations overheard, and the like. She had several philosophies that would shock many reading about them today. I grew up in that era of the “children should be seen and not heard” child-rearing techniques.

In fairness I must say that I learned a lot about many things by having to keep silent.

For instance, I learned that that tiny woman of barely four feet ten, was strong, and not just physically. There was one story that Mom told about the day that Grandma was bitten by the snake. Mom figured that it was a copperhead or cottonmouth since there had been no sounding rattles.

This event happened back in the late 30’s or early 40’s when a person had to be on death’s threshold before they’d go to a doctor. The way I understood the story, Grandma waited until she got sick and then agreed to go to seek help. That she did this didn’t surprise me at the time. That she followed doctor’s orders was what kept my attention and respect.

The doctor’s prescription was for her to take a drop of arsenic each day to counteract the snakebite venom. Antivenin hadn’t made its appearance yet. So there she was, still sick from snakebite and dropping arsenic each day to compensate. At the time I first heard the story. I was old enough to know that arsenic was poisonous; too young to wrap my head around the belief that such a prescription would actually work.

Grandma would have laughed if she’d heard my questions about it. The snakebite wasn’t nearly as deadly as Malaria, which she and both daughters contracted during the war. They all landed in the hospital for treatment. It was the first time that Grandma had ever been in the hospital for any reason, as far as I know.

She was the one who would wait for the menfolk to exit the house during visits on Sunday so that she and the other females could imbibe in a tiny snifter of her homemade elderberry wine. I think I was about ten when she handed me a small snifter of my own. I was stunned the first time she did it. Alcohol was verboten in our house, but Mom didn’t blink an eye when snifters and decanter came down from the sideboard.

When I was eleven, not long before my twelfth birthday, she and Grandfather were visiting on a Sunday afternoon.  People did that back then. I was outside playing with my brother when I stepped on a honeybee. Needless to say, I yelped, hopped, and generally acted like a girl.

I got inside the house and reported the incident to Mom. With my Dad deathly allergic to bees, Mom always watched our reactions very carefully, though I didn’t realize that was the reason until adulthood. (I began my senior moments a few decades too early, you understand.)

Grandma took my hand and my brother’s hand and led us outside. She had us sit on the well platform beside her.

I can close my eyes and still feel her hands cradling my swollen foot that throbbed as if it’d been stomped on. Her eyes were closed, even as mine dripped tears of pain and uncertainty. Brother was unusually silent as he watched the procedure.

Quiet words flowed from her, repeating gospel verses such as “Wherever two or more are gathered in His name…” and moving on to more prayer-like sentences. I do remember hearing absolute silence all around us. That’s hard to achieve on a bright summer day in the country.

As she made her prayer, Grandma gently stroked my foot, first the swollen red venom site, along the ball and on to the toes, and back along the top to the ankle and down the heel. Her fingers, which moved to the equivalent of a whisper of movement, traced each part of my foot with the transience of a feather on the breeze.

When she finished her ministrations and her prayer, Brother and I said “Amen” and waited.

This tiny lady, with her Mrs. Beasley glasses and hair pulled away from her pudgy cheeks, turned to me and said, “From this day on, you will never again be stung by a bee. If you should step on one, it must defend itself, but you will not swell or have pain.”

Those intense eyes of hers held mine until I nodded my understanding. At that moment outside sound flooded back in, the world righted itself, and we returned to the house.

My foot? All swelling and pain had disappeared while we sat at the well. To this day, over 50 years later, I have never been stung by another bee. In fact, bees and wasps will walk all over me and never bother to sting.

How did she do it? I can only conclude that she asked the Creator for a favor and had it granted. That’s enough for me to understand.